The Gathering Dark by Leigh Bardugo is a thrilling YA fantasy novel set in a fictional world where Grisha live side-by-side with humans, serving the King of Ravka in the war with the surrounding regions. The plot is intricately carved, with this novel providing a strong basis for the future books in the trilogy and carving out the foundations of the Grisha universe.
Grisha are wielders of magic so to speak, their power being described as ‘like calling to like’, with the hierarchy of the Grisha dependent on their skills. The highest ranked is the Darkling, a man with the power to summon forth darkness and amplify others’ power, the strongest of all Grisha. The other Grisha wield a mixture of elemental, summoning, healing, and crafting magic, each having individual skills with which to aid the kingdom.
Our heroine, Alina Starkov, is an orphan, raised in a duke’s orphanage along with her best friend Mal, and now a cartographer in the army. Their regiment is tasked with crossing the Shadow Fold, a seemingly impenetrable stretch of the kingdom that is inhabited by volcra, vicious beings that will kill on sight. Alina’s power manifests during this attempted crossing, marking her as a sun summoner, a power almost as rare as the Darkling himself, making her a prime target…
Alina is a relatable protagonist, with her emotional turmoil at becoming a Grisha fully understandable, along with her subconscious desire to belong somewhere, to have some sort of purpose. I really liked her as a character, and felt that the first person narration was really well written by Bardugo, as I never once felt annoyed at her character or frustrated at her perspective. She grows throughout the novel, becoming even stronger and likeable by the end, the reader willing her to succeed along her journey.
Another well-written aspect of this book is the love triangle. Ordinarily the author will set up from the beginning who the protagonist will eventually end up with, prodding the reader’s affection towards the appropriate candidate. However, I felt that Bardugo completely subverted this, with the love triangle between Alina, the Darkling and Mal being totally unpredictable. I didn’t feel that there was a clear choice to be made until the end, with Alina’s childhood friend being pitched against the mysterious and seductive Darkling. But, is the Darkling working for the good of the kingdom or for personal gain? And will Mal ever understand Alina’s new ways of the Grisha?
Overall, I loved everything about this book, with there being some seriously unexpected plot twists that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end. I could hardly put this book down, and am thoroughly looking forward to reading the following books in the trilogy. My only slight complaint is that the book was too short, I wanted more to read!
I absolutely loved this book, I was completely pulled in by the characters and the plotline kept me hooked until the end. I can’t wait for the next two books in the trilogy, and feel that this book was a superb opening to the world of the Grisha, and hope that it can only get better.
BUY YOUR COPY